Many people in their 50’s take up leisurely pursuits, but as a dedicated and highly-trained couch potato, I made a different decision. I started running a week after my 50th birthday, and three months later I finished my first 5K race. Here’s how I did it.
*I dreamed big. I’d never particularly wanted to run in a race, but seeing the cool Facebook posts my friends put up of themselves wearing costumes, smiling happily at the finish line, and bragging about personal bests got me thinking. For me, running a 5K race really was a big dream. I didn’t start with a base of fitness. I wasn’t sure I could run for five minutes, let alone 3.1 miles. But hey-it was one of those birthdays that ended with “0” that made me want to dream big.
*I got a checkup. My doctor gave the okay and I was good to go. I have some health problems but my doctor predicted that I could improve them with good physical fitness. I did get some stern warnings about physical symptoms that could indicate trouble, but once I got the go-ahead I was ready to start.
*I got decent shoes. My first time out, I ran with my old sneakers. I didn’t get hurt (thank goodness!) but I sure didn’t feel good afterward. I bit the bullet, went to a running shoe store, and got professionally fitted. It was a fascinating process that involved running on a treadmill while a camera filmed my feet. My salesperson determined that I needed additional support and I tried on many, many shoes before finding the one that felt best. In addition, I invested in a good sports bra, which made all the difference. The second time I ran-wearing the new shoes and my sports bra-I had far fewer aches and pains.
*There’s an app for that. I used the classic “Couch to 5K” running program and quickly found several phone apps for my workouts. Even if you go without the phone app, I can’t stress enough how valuable I found the gradual, tried-and-true workout system. In the past when I wanted to get fit, I’d go like gangbusters for three workouts then get utterly discouraged about my aches and pains and give up. Not this time, though. The workouts were gradual enough that I didn’t feel stressed but challenging enough that I could see differences in my stamina and my general well-being. Another friend of mine uses a zombie running app that keeps him entertained while he trains. Don’t try to go it alone. Use a proven system or find a 5K beginners training group at your gym, community center, or through a running store.
*I found a race. Use the internet or word of mouth from other runners to find a 5K race at about the time you finish your training program. It was important to me to find a race that supported a cause I believe in, so I chose a local race that raises money for AIDS orphans in Africa. Knowing I had to prepare for that race kept me honest!
*I enlisted a buddy. I trained alone, which I found pleasant after working with other people every day, but my running buddy Mary (also running her first 5K after 50) trained simultaneously to prepare for the same race. On race day, we took “Before” and “After” pictures, ran together, encouraged one another, and crossed the finish line together. It was so satisfying to share that milestone with someone else who’d fought the same battle!
*Take care of yourself. If you get sick while you’re training, take a few days off. If you get hurt, attend to your injury and don’t try to push through the pain. Make sure you stretch carefully, keep hydrated, and stay safe on the street as you run.
I ran a 5K at the age of 50 after being a couch potato. Meeting my goal was the sweetest experience I’ve had so far this year-but who knows? I’m running another 5K next month!